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Jury selected for Skelos corruption retrial

Dean Skelos and his wife, Gail, at left,

Dean Skelos and his wife, Gail, at left, and their son, Adam Skelos, arrive at a federal courthouse in Manhattan for his retrial on Tuesday. Credit: Composite: Charles Eckert

A jury of five men and seven women was selected Tuesday for the retrial of former State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and son Adam on federal corruption charges.

Prosecutors also told U.S. District Court Judge Kimba M. Wood that plea discussions had been held — but to no avail.

“The parties have engaged in informal oral plea discussions,” federal prosecutor Thomas McKay said in Manhattan federal court. “Ultimately no offer was extended” after the Skeloses put an end to the talks, he said.

The Rockville Centre pair is accused of using Dean Skelos’ position as one of state government’s three most powerful individuals to secure jobs and payments for Adam. In return, Dean Skelos, a Republican, promised to look favorably on legislation desired by those helping his son, according to the indictment.

Dean Skelos, 70, and Adam Skelos, 36, both have denied wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty.

Despite Dean Skelos being at the center of major policy decisions in Albany for decades, the people selected to judge his guilt or innocence appeared to know little about him besides his surname, occupation and that he is on trial.

“I know he was charged with corruption but I’m unsure of the details,” said a 54-year-old juror from Manhattan who works as a manager of IT training for a human resources company. The juror was responding to a question from the judge at the bench about prior knowledge of the Skeloses.

Another juror, a 57-year-old woman from Rockland County who is a practice manager in a cancer center, said she had heard Dean Skelos’ name in a television news report about corruption “but I was not engaged with it. I really don’t know much about them,” the juror told the judge in a sidebar.

The jurors range in age from 22 to 68. Six are from Manhattan, three are from Westchester County, one is from Rockland County and two from the Bronx. None are Long Islanders or mentioned any connection to the Island. In addition to the panel, there are six alternate jurors.

The jurors were selected from a pool of 40 eligible people, with the prosecution and the Skeloses’ attorneys each permitted to exclude a set number to get to the desired 18.

The retrial comes after the Skeloses’ 2015 convictions were reversed when the U.S. Supreme Court more narrowly defined the kind of quid pro quo bribery scheme a public official must engage in to be convicted.

Prosecutors allege that Dean and Adam Skelos took part in multiple quid pro quo schemes that brought Adam hundreds of thousands of dollars from businesses interested in legislation before the Senate, where his father held sway.

The Skeloses allegedly squeezed payments to Adam out of real estate developer Glenwood Management in New Hyde Park, malpractice firm Physicians’ Reciprocal Insurers in Roslyn and AbTech, an Arizona environmental firm that won a $12 million storm-water treatment contract from Nassau County, according to prosecutors.

Prosecutors alleged Dean Skelos made persistent pleas for Glenwood and Physicians’ Reciprocal to help Adam. At Physicians’ Reciprocal, Adam was given a sales job that he rarely showed up for, prosecutors said. Adam also threatened his supervisor, but couldn’t be fired because executives didn’t want to anger the senator, according to the indictment.

In another alleged scheme, Dean Skelos pressured then-Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, a fellow Republican, to expedite the county’s payments to AbTech after it had hired Adam, prosecutors said.

Blair Horner, executive director for good-government advocate New York Public Interest Research Group, said, “the central issue in this case and many others is alleged corruption — the abuse of public power for private gain.”

The senior Skelos was the state’s top Republican until his indictment in 2015. He had served in the Senate for 30 years and was the majority leader three times, with the longest period starting in January 2011.

Dean Skelos is the second ex-Albany power broker to be retried this year.

In May, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) was convicted of all seven counts of improperly receiving nearly $4 million in referral fees in return for directing state actions that benefited a cancer doctor and two real estate developers. The quid pro quo schemes took place for about 10 years while Silver also was among the Capitol’s three most powerful individuals.

Silver has said he intends to appeal the jury verdict in Manhattan federal court. He will be sentenced next month.

Opening arguments in the Skeloses’ retrial are scheduled for Wednesday.

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